ALABASTER

The name “alabaster” is certainly of Egyptian origin and might come from the town of Alabastron, formerly famous for the production of jars and amphoras made to preserve perfumes. Alabaster is a sedimentary rock that has two varieties: a so-called oriental alabaster or “alabastrite”, and the other type of alabaster that is chalky and much softer, generally white in colour with a similar appearance to marble. The chalky alabaster, which is carved in Volterra and, in particular the one that is mined from the subsoil of Castellina Marittima, was formed in the Miocene period following a process of sedimentation and the concentration of the calcium sulphate contained in marine waters. It is a pure-white stone that can be carved with greater ease than marble, due to its particular softness and is therefore suited for making certain intricately detailed ornamental motifs on a small scale, and for portraying the features of the human face, according to the aesthetical norms that dominated the guidelines of classical art. It was almost a stone of the gods, the Etruscans used it to build sarcophagi and cinerary urns with elaborate decorations depicting an image of the deceased, together with scenes of daily life, to imagine journeys in the afterlife and famous episodes from Greek mythology.

In nature there are various types of alabaster, each one with its own characteristics; the details of which are listed below:

Transparent White

A particularly transparent variety, white in colour with some brown/dark grey veins.

Its transparency makes it ideal for lighting up.

 

Veined white or “Pietra a marmo”

A milk white variety, characterised by internal streaks that are more transparent, making it particularly variegated, and an almost total absence of dark streaks; it is the most recommended type for obtaining diverse light or colour effects, as the light passes through the stone in a different way depending on the vein present.

It is also the variety that lends itself the most to being coloured.

Agate

A light brown variety, with very variable shades that range from light beige, to honey, to dark brown. The name Agata is inappropriately used: the colour is actually created by a type of oxidization that takes place over time, due to its proximity to parts containing iron in the subsoil. Brown/dark grey/black veins may also be present in this variety.

It also lends itself to being lit up, given its transparency.


Bardiglio

A white variety characterised by the strong presence of dark grey veins; this variety is quite rare and is used very little.

As it is not transparent, it is not ideal for lighting up.

 

Cenerino

A dark grey / light brown variety, characterised by its very streaked structure; for this reason, it lends itself to very small pieces of craftsmanship, as the veins flake during processing, causing it to break.

This variety is not transparent either, so it is not used for lighting up.